Saturday, July 30, 2016


Unfortunately the Neshanock are not able to participate in today's scheduled matches with the Elkton Eclipse and Mohican Club of Kennett Square.  It's too bad as Elkton is one of the country's best teams and the Mohican Club is having a fine season, undefeated at this point.  Perhaps next year.  The Neshanock (and A Manly Pastime) will return next weekend when Flemington takes part in the second annual Doc Adams Festival at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Base Ball and Hot Dogs - Together at Coney Island

Due to a family conflict, I was unable to attend the Neshanock - Atlantic game at Coney Island this past Sunday.  More than ably filling in was contributing photographer Mark "Gaslight" Granieri who took on the dual role of photographer and author - thanks "Gaslight."

MCU Park

Flemington followed up their Saturday exhibition in Princeton with another exhibition on Sunday in Coney Island. As guests of the Brooklyn Atlantics, the Neshanock played at MCU Park which is home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, a N.Y. Mets Single-A farm club. Although not the traditional environment for a 19th Century Base Ball game, the opportunity to play in a stadium and show the game’s roots is always an exciting event.

The Neshanock survey the field

Coney Island by itself is never short on excitement during the summer. The beach and boardwalk provide a backdrop for a dizzying array of sights, sounds and smells. Within a short distance one can eat at Nathan’s, ride the Cyclone or Wonder Wheel and visit the New York Aquarium while the Parachute Drop stands sentinel over the area.

Nathan’s celebrates 100 years

Since the match had a time limit, both sides played at a brisk pace in order to maximize innings. Time was not wasted switching sides or strolling to the plate. The Park also contributed to the speed of the game because of the artificial turf which was installed after damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Ground balls followed a predictable path into defensive hands instead of a roller coaster ride due to furrows on a farm field. Also impressive clouts over outfielder’s heads turned into meek outs after a high bound bounce much to the frustration of more than one striker.

Rene “Mango” Marrero and Gregg “Burner” Wiseburn

In the game, Flemington played three muffins along with a helping of Gothams, most notably Charles “Bugs” Klansman who handled most of the pitching duties. It was a family affair as two of the muffins were the brothers of the Neshanock’s own Brad “Brooklyn” Shaw and Rene ”Mango” Marrero. For “Brooklyn” the match was a homecoming, hence the nickname, as he reminisced about time spent growing up in the surrounding neighborhood.

“Brooklyn” versus Brooklyn where else but in Brooklyn

The game saw Flemington hold an early 2-1 lead. But alas nothing could have cooled the Atlantic attack, neither the Neshanock nor the kitschy palm tree sprinklers on the beach. Brooklyn staged a comeback resulting in a 7 inning 6-2 victory. Meanwhile the cranks split their cheers between the exhibition and the broadcasting of Mike Piazza’s HOF induction speech on the video board.  No matter as both clubs enjoyed the competition and being able to give the Coney Island crowd a taste of base ball.

Postcard from Coney Island, Thanks to the Atlantics and Cyclones!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Character and Characters

After spending last weekend at the Gettysburg National Festival, the Neshanock were scheduled to pay their annual visit to Princeton on Saturday for a match sponsored by the Historical Society of Princeton.  Flemington always gets something out of the event including the addition, one year, of Ken "Tumbles" Mandel to the Neshanock roster - it's safe to say the team has never been the same.  We'll leave it at that.  Today's opponent was unable to participate so 10 members of the Flemington team along with five local volunteers divided into teams and played one match.  Perhaps not surprisingly, that approach isn't without precedent, in fact, on one occasion in 1870 in Jersey City, such an impromptu match apparently made history as one of  the first racially integrated base ball games in New Jersey - an event that got no small attention in the contemporary media.  Today's game was in no way history making, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves as "Mango's" Marauders topped "Tumbles" Terrors by a 7-3 count.   Special thanks to Harvey, Jimmy, Nick, Claire and Chris for playing with us today.  Hopefully next year will see the return of a more typical arrangement with somewhat less stifling weather.

Princeton has an important place in the history of early organized base ball because the University (then known as the College of New Jersey) was one of the first colleges where the New York game took root.  Thanks to three young men from Brooklyn who brought not only their books and brains, but also their bats and balls to the college in the fall of 1858, organized base ball was played there before the Civil War.  Known first as the Class of 1862 base ball team, the club eventually took the name of the Nassau club and gradually grew into the school base ball team, competing against both amateur and other college clubs beginning in the 1860's.  It appears that the faculty had some concerns that organized base ball might harm the young men's academic work, but those concerns were allayed somewhat when seven of the first ten academic positions at the Class of 1862 graduation were held by Nassau Club members.  The team's academic performance plus any lack of scandal associated with the players got the relatively new version of base ball off to an acceptable start at the collegiate level, perhaps supporting the idea that base ball builds character.

1866 Princeton Base Ball Team - Condit appears to be the man in the middle in the back row

It's fortunate this first group of, dare I say it, student athletes maintained such a good record since if the example of one young man who followed in their footsteps was more common, there might have been some concern that instead of having character, base ball players were characters.  The player in question is one Edward Augustus Condit from East Orange, New Jersey, a member of the Princeton Class of 1866 who primarily played first base while serving at least one term as club treasurer.  Responsibility for club funds was the not the wisest assignment to give young Condit, although total club expenses of $9.43 in an earlier season suggests there wasn't a lot to lose.  Still, Condit consistently demonstrated an ability to leverage small amounts of money in inappropriate ways so if he had set his mind to it, he doubtless could have done a lot with even that little.  The details of Condit's post college life are sketchy and especially any thing he said needs to be taken with a truck load of salt, but supposedly after college he accumulated $100,000 through some combination of inheritance and speculation only to lose all of it in speculation by 1876.

Condit's infamous telegram - New York Herald - December 12, 1876

Apparently determined to rebuild his finances on a big stage,  the former Princeton base ball player chose Wall Street to make a big killing by fabricating a big death.  Late on the morning of October 16, 1876 the Associated Press's offices in New York City received a telegram over the name of the Rev. Charles Deems, spiritual adviser to Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, if he wasn't the world's richest man, was certainly a contender.  The telegram announced the tycoon's death at a time when the market was concerned about Vanderbilt's health and the news sent some stocks lower until Deems and newspaper reporters  made it clear the report of the railroad executive's death was a complete fabrication.  Although an investigation was launched immediately, it took until December when none other than Edward Condit was arrested as the man responsible for the hoax.  Exactly what came of the arrest isn't clear, partially because it wasn't certain if sending an inaccurate telegram was illegal, but the below article from the New York World gives a sense of some of Condit's other activities including his apparent appeal to the opposite sex which he would later attempt to use in even more creative ways.

New York World - December 19, 1876

Included in Condit's skill set was an ability to get ahead and stay ahead of his pursuers as his next encounter with the criminal justice system came in March of 1883 after a search lasting seven months.  This time the Princeton alumnus was arrested for two years of illegal speculation funded on a grand total of $9 deposited with the Orange Savings Bank.  Condit searched out grain dealers and/or stock brokers who would make purchases on margin (credit).  He would then send the unsuspecting dealer a check for the cash portion of the transaction.  If the value of the stock or grain went up, Condit went to the broker to sell it, reclaimed his check and took the profit from the deal.  If, on the other hand, the value went down, Condit simply left the brokerage firm with the check which they would find, to their dismay, was worthless.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the arrest took place in a "disreputable house." Incredibly, it appears Condit wasn't successfully prosecuted, but in the next year landed in the hands of the Jersey City police charged with swindling Jersey City merchants with, surprise, bad checks.

Either because Condit was recognized as a flight risk and denied bail or he was unable to come up with the cash (one hopes the authorities insisted on cash), he was in jail awaiting trial in early December of 1884.  The enterprising criminal was not without solace, however, as he received regular visits from two "ladies," one claiming to be his wife, the other his sister.  The two provided more than moral support as on the evening of December 2nd, Condit apparently anxious to get home for the holidays attempted an unauthorized egress from the jail.  Equipped, among other things, with a dozen jig saws and a rope ladder, all supplied by his female admirers, Condit cut his way out of his cell, through the bathroom door and was in the process of removing the bars from the window when noise in the cell block alerted the jailer, a Mr. Joyce.  Upon discovery, Condit, always the college educated gentleman, handed over this supplies to Joyce, lamenting that he hadn't had 10 more minutes and bidding the jailer not to "scold me, . . I wanted my liberty.  You would have done the same under similar circumstances."  Condit was wise in trying to escape as this time, he didn't get away with his nefarious deeds with the judge, another Princeton graduate, sentencing his fellow alumnus to four years at hard labor.  Even so the former first baseman wasn't rattled, supposedly receiving his sentence "with a great deal of self composure."

Duluth News-Tribune - September 24, 1903

Condit must have served some or all of his sentence and then dropped out of the public eye although not apparently because he had seen the error of his ways.  Almost 20 years later, in Belmont, Massachusetts, Edward A. Cranston, a real estate broker was arrested for forging checks in a creative manner.  Cranston, through a messenger, would approach banks and brokers with what appeared to be a certified check for an amount slightly more than the price of a stock purchase with instructions that the small overage, typically not much more than $80, be given to the messenger.  Ultimately, of course, the check itself was a forgery.  Confronted by the police, Cranston took to his heels, while demonstrating "a buoyant and cork like agility in scaling fences and dashing over plowed fields, that in a man of his years was nothing short of marvelous."  If the accused's athletic feats suggested a sports background that was the case since at his trial Cranston admitted that he was none other than the former collegiate base ball player, Edward A. Condit.  Cranston was apparently only the most recent alias Condit used to support himself by creative criminal ploys, but this malfeasance earned him a prison sentence of 10-15 years.  Unfortunately no information about Condit's life after that has come to light, but even if he did survive prison, it's doubtful he attended many class of 1866 reunions at Princeton, although if he did, he certainly had no shortage of stories to tell and, perhaps, classmates to fleece.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pictures on the Wall - Gettysburg 2016

Vintage base ball games typically conclude with the recreation of a traditional practice of  the 19th century game, brief (hopefully) speeches by both captains, followed by cheers for the opposing team.  Almost without exception the speeches include praise for the umpire (hard to visualize today at any level), thanks to the fans, regardless of the number, and praise for the opposition.  If there is a host organization, they too receive the thanks of both teams.  While I didn't see all of the matches at the 2016 Gettysburg National Base Ball Festival this past weekend, one thing I can say with complete confidence is that the thanks offered to the Elkton Eclipse for arranging and managing the event was heart felt and in no way perfunctory.  First played in 2010, the festival has become what I suspect many, including myself, feel is simply in a class (the highest) by itself, an opinion in no way intended to find fault with many of the other fine vintage festivals and tournaments throughout the country.

Schroeder Farm early Saturday morning 

Since the Neshanock were fortunate enough to be part of the inaugural six team event, I've had the opportunity to observe the growth of the festival, growth far beyond just the number of participating teams - 18 in the 2016 version.  Opinions about what makes for a great vintage event are, of course, subjective, but what stands out to this observer is the initial vision of holding the event in Gettysburg, the shift from a tournament to a festival and the change in local venue.  Six years later the choice of Gettysburg may seem obvious, but for all it's historical importance (more about that later), the small village in southern Pennsylvania isn't particularly significant in terms of base ball in the Civil War period.  Originally the event was a tournament played to determine a champion, there's certainly nothing wrong with that approach, but it makes scheduling more complicated and uncertain, while also limiting the number of participants.  The festival format with each team playing four games scheduled well ahead of time is not only efficient, it facilitates setting up enjoyable and competitive contests.  All of these factors along with the move to the far larger Schroeder Farm, which allows five games to be played simultaneously, facilitates two things enjoyed by almost every vintage base ball participant, the chance to play teams from other parts of the country and to see old friends from the clubs we play more regularly.

Photo by Mark Granieri

So like the other 17 participating clubs, the Neshanock club wholeheartedly thanked the Eclipse Club at the end of each of its four matches which began with an early Saturday morning contest against one of vintage base ball's best clubs, the Old Gold BBC of Saginaw, Michigan.  Both teams tallied in their first at bat, but for the next four innings none of the Neshanocks touched home plate while Saginaw tallied seven more times.  Like most superior vintage clubs, the Michigan team played sound defense, not just in terms of difficult plays, but in simply making the routine, but no less important play.  The Old Golds also proved very consistent in scoring, never putting more than three runs across the plate, but scoring in all, but one inning.  Down 10-3 headed to the eighth, Flemington rallied for four runs, closing the gap to a manageable 10-7 margin, setting up the opportunity for a come behind win, if Saginaw could be held in check in their half of the eighth.  That looked feasible when, after allowing a lead off hit, the Neshanock retired the next two batters, but the Michigan team was not to be denied bunching two hits and a Flemington muff to tally three more times and a 13-7 victory.  Although limited on offense, the Neshanock were led by Dave "Illinois" Harris with three hits, followed by Chris "Sideshow" Nunn, Dan "Sledge" Hammer and Jack "Doc" Kitson with two apiece.

Special thanks to Stormy Banschbach of the Belle River Club for the use of two of his fine photos

Playing early on what promised to be a hot day (this is after all, Gettysburg in July) was a plus and Flemington was fortunate enough to play two straight finishing the day's work before 1:00.  In the second Saturday contest the opposition was again provided by a Michigan team, this time the Richmond Bees.  The first half of the game was another low scoring affair with the Neshanock holding Richmond to just three runs through five innings, but able only to score four tallies of its own turns at the striker's line.  Fortunately, Flemington scored seven more times over the second half of the game while shutting out the Michigan team the rest of the way for an 11-3 win.  Leading the Neshanock offense was "Sideshow," Flemington's lead off batter who not only had four straight hits, but scored each time.  Unfortunately his bid for a clear score fell one short when he was retired in his last at bat in the eighth inning.  Chipping in with two hits each were "Sledge," Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel and Chris "Muffin" Smith, the latter making his first, but hopefully not last appearance in a Flemington uniform.  Departing from standard practice,the post game speech omitted the customary praise of the umpire which may be because the speaker was Danny "Batman" Shaw and the umpire, one, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw.

Photo by Stormy Banschbach

After an afternoon and evening of sampling what Gettysburg has to offer, the Neshanock returned to the Schroeder Farm on another hot day under a pristine blue sky spotted with picturesque white clouds.  The first Sunday game brought another Midwest opponent, the Belle River BBC of Rising Sun, Indiana, not to be confused with the team from Rising Sun, Maryland which was also a participant.  Sometimes the story of a base ball match is not the game itself and such was the case in Flemington's 19-4 win over the game and gentlemanly Indiana team.  After "Sideshow's" flirtation with a clear score in the second Saturday game, three members of the Neshanock attempted to meet one of Henry Chadwick's highest standards, playing an entire game without making an out.  Under Chadwick's criteria, getting on base on an error is as good as a hit and even hitting into a force play doesn't disqualify the striker.  The latter exception, however, is a two edged sword as under Chadwick's system, the out on the force out is charged to the runner.  Successfully meeting the test was "Sledge," with four hits including a triple and a home run hit into the right center field gap.  Also on the clear score quest was "Gaslight," working for the somewhat less than stylistic variation of one of the ugliest clear scores in history, reaching base twice on muffs before being retired in his last at bat.  Finally there was "Tumbles," doubtless Flemington's favorite player who after two singles, followed "Sledge's" example by doubling into the gap.  With the pressure on in the bottom of the eighth, "Tumbles" came through with another well placed hit, only to be denied the clear score when he was forced out at second - "sic transit gloria."

Photo by Mark Granieri

After the high drama or low comedy of the clear score quest, the Neshanock still had one match left, against a more familiar opponent, the Lewes BBC of Delaware.  Back in 2014, the two clubs met twice at the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, splitting two close contests and the Delaware club remains a worthy foe.  Low scoring was once again the order of the day, but taking a page from the Saginaw's book, Flemington scored at least once in the first six innings and led 8-4 at that point.  Lewes rallied for two in the bottom of the seventh, but the Neshanock got those back to lead 10-6 heading into Lewes' last time at the striker's line.  In an inning reminiscent of the last game of the New England Festival three weeks ago, the Neshanock made it a lot harder than necessary, but retired the last striker with the tying run on base to finish the festival with a 3-1 mark, Flemington's best performance in the seven years of the event.  Excelling for the Neshanock was Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with four hits, featuring two doubles and a triple plus some fine work in the field especially throwing a Lewes striker out at first from his knees.  Joe "Mick" Murray contributed three hits (after two in the first game) with "Gaslight" and "Illinois" coming up with two each.  Now 15-6 on the season, Flemington plays an exhibition game of sorts in Princeton on Saturday followed by a Sunday match with the Atlantics of Brooklyn at MCU Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Commemorative coin used for coin toss and awarded to the winning team
photo by Mark Granieri 

That Gettysburg National Park has tremendous drawing power is evident by just looking at the license plates in the parking lot, seen this time, for example, were cars from as far away as Nevada and the state of Washington.  Some of the appeal is based on the premise that the battle of Gettysburg was the decisive event of the war, but that is certainly an arguable proposition.  One of the things that stands out about Gettysburg, I think, is it is one of those few places where the words ultimately matched the deeds, the place where some 272 words by Abraham Lincoln did indeed hallow the ground for all time.  The scope of what happened at Gettysburg is so vast that its natural to focus on the big picture historical debates such as the decisions of generals like Lee, Longstreet and Meade.  Equally, if not in some ways more important, however, is putting a human face on the ordinary soldiers, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice  Christ Lutheran Church in Gettysburg, just off the square, does just that through its Candlelight at Grace concert offered most Saturday evenings in the summer,  Drawing on the church's experience as a Civil War hospital the program features songs and readings that honor those who there "gave their lives that that nation might live."

Candlelight Service at Christ Lutheran Church Gettysburg

The musical selection includes well known songs like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie," but also some songs perhaps less well remembered, that give a sense of the personal loss and suffering.  Especially noteworthy this year was Henry Clay Work's "The Picture on the Wall," a sad message of irretrievable loss which is perfectly captured in the refrain:

"Among the brave and loyal,
How many lov'd ones fall!
Whose friends bereft, Have only left
A picture on the wall."

If life is unfair, war is the unfairest part of life because some die before they have ever had the chance to live.  Nothing can recover those lost lifetimes, but everything can and should be done to be sure what they did in the time they had, is remembered and honored, and it's never too late to do that.  A case in point is that of  Alonzo Cushing, who was born in Delafield, Wisconsin and grew up in New York state before attending West Point.  

Alonzo Cushing

On July, 3 1863, the 22 year old Cushing was the commander of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery positioned on Cemetery Ridge near the copse of trees and the stone wall known to history as the High Water-Mark of the Confederacy because it represents the Confederates deepest penetration of the Union line.  Cushing used his battery to fill a gap in the Union lines at that crucial place and while commanding his troops received a wound in the shoulder, a horrific wound in the groin in addition to burning one of his fingers to the bone on a cannon.  Yet in spite of being urged to withdraw to seek treatment for his wounds, Cushing refused and was finally killed by another Confederate bullet.  His  place was taken by Sergeant Frederick Fuller who was later awarded the Medal of Honor, the country's highest military award.  No such award was forthcoming for Cushing, due to a hard to believe army regulation that the Medal of Honor could not be awarded posthumously.  When that regulation was wisely changed, Cushing's feats were somehow overlooked until over a century later in 1987 when Margaret Zerwekh, no relation to Cushing, of Delafield took up the cause.  Interested in local history (her house was on land once owned by the Cushing family), Zerwekh researched Cushing's story and then spent 27 years (five more years than Cushing lived) striving to do justice to this young man.  Medal of Honor awards more than five years after the person's death requires a special act of Congress, but finally the necessary legislation was passed and on November 6, 2014 President Obama presented the medal to one of Cushing's distant relatives with the 94 year old Zerwekh in attendance.

Monument to Battery A, 4th U. S. Artillery at Gettysburg 

Ensuring Cushing's actions were appropriately recognized and honored took more than a quarter of a century of work by a very committed and tenacious woman, something few of us could or would undertake.  But the contributions of programs like Christ Church also matter because they raise up the individual sacrifices that explain why the Union prevailed not just at Gettysburg, but ultimately in the war itself.  And by starting and developing a vintage base ball festival near that hallowed ground, the Elkton Eclipse help attract even more people from all over the United States to visit Gettysburg and hear those stories.  In the theater's there's a saying that "there are no small parts, only small actors."  The same thing is even more true of remembering the past, no contribution is too small and for all these contributions we should be truly grateful.  I, for one, am already looking forward to the 2017 festival.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the Footsteps of the Knickerbockers

After a well deserved break last weekend, the Neshanock returned to action on Saturday with their fourth annual visit to historic New Bridge Landing  in River Edge, New Jersey for an event sponsored by the Bergen County Historical Society.  For the third consecutive year, Flemington hosted the Eckford Club of Brooklyn, another of the country's best vintage clubs led by the inimitable (thankfully) Eric "Express" Micklich.  Although the visitors got off to an early 2-0 lead in the first of two seven inning matches, the Neshanock rallied for three tallies in both the second and third innings for what proved to be a short lived 6-3 lead after three.  The two clubs went back and forth over the next two innings with Flemington leading 7-6 headed to the sixth when the Eckford erupted for six tallies and then added four in the seventh for a 16-9 victory.  The Neshanock were led on offense by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner who had three hits and Dave "Illinois" Harris, Danny "Batman" Shaw, Rene "Mango" Marrero and Dan "Sledge" Hammer with two apiece. 

Photo by Hal Shaw

 Having come from behind to win the first match, the Eckford showed no inclination to repeat the experience getting off to a 6-1 lead in the first two innings of the second contest and while the Neshanock fought back it was not enough with the visitors winning the second contest 10-6.  "Thumbs" added two hits in the second game which were matched by Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and Bobby "Melky" Ritter.  The Eckford hit well and ran the bases aggressively, but like any good vintage team, their defense is worthy of special note as they made only two muffs in the first contest and none in the second.  Flemington would like to thank Charles "Bugs" Klansman and Joe "Sleepy" Soria of the Gotham Club who joined the Neshanock side for the day.  With the two losses, Flemington is now 12-5 on the season, headed into next week's festival in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, one of the premier vintage base ball events in the county. 

The railroad and eventually base ball come to Englewood and Bergen County - Book of Englewood

In one of those obscure, but interesting quirks of history, Flemington's trip to Bergen County was only a few days shy of the 150th anniversary of a similar visit by one of base ball's most historically important clubs, the pioneering Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City.  On July 14, 1866, the New York club visited nearby Englewood where it soundly defeated the Palisade Club of that village by a score of 39-17.  Nor was that the Knickerbocker's sole 1866 visit to Bergen County as the two clubs played a three game series, with the final and deciding game also played in Englewood, this time a 42-27 victory for the local team in an modern like, two hours and thirty-five minutes.  Having led the way in popularizing and formalizing the New York game, by 1866 the Knickerbockers were playing fewer match games, something that was never one of their highest priorities.  Why then did the Knickerbockers make, not one, but two trips to Englewood to play a local club that was hardly one of New Jersey's most prominent teams?  That question was posed a few months ago by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, founder of the Neshanock and new president of the Vintage Base Ball Association (don't forget it for a moment).

Record of the Knickerbocker - Palisade Matches from Peverelly's Book of American Pastimes

The Palisade Club of Englewood, sometimes confused with an earlier team of the same name in West Hoboken (Union City), was formed in August of 1860, according to an article in the September 8th issue of the New York Clipper.  While the article calls the team the Englewood Club, the player names are the same as the Palisade Club of the post war years and its seems pretty clear this is the same team.  Somewhat surprising was the amount of newspaper space devoted to the founding of just this one club, but the reason became clear when the writer, almost certainly Henry Chadwick, noted the team was only the second "especially formed to play the 'fly game.'"  While claiming it was not necessary to repeat the paper's position on the issue, Chadwick did just that, asserting that "we look upon 'the fly' as the only true standard of the game - and the one to which it will ultimately come."  As with many antebellum clubs, and the Palisade Club just makes it into that category, the new team didn't get on the field much during the war years, apparently playing its first full schedule in 1866, the year it took on the Knickerbockers.

Manning and Houmans (sic) play for the Knickerbockers - New York Clipper, October 25, 1865

All of this was interesting, but shed no light on why the young men from Bergen County rated three matches against one of the games most prominent, if not competitive clubs.  Much work has been done on the Knickerbockers, led by John Thorn, Official Historian of MLB, including a valuable essay in Baseball Founders which features the biographies of well over 100 club members.  A few years ago, trying to understand how the New York game moved into New Jersey,  I looked through these biographies, searching for members with New Jersey connections and found quite a few.  That seemed like a good place to look for overlap between the two clubs which might at least partially explain how the series of matches got started and that premise proved correct, but not in the most productive way possible.  In addition to the 100 plus Knickerbockers with biographies, was a list of about 20 names, club members who had not been identified.  One name on that list, Homans,matched the name of a founding director of the Palisade Club who also played for the team in 1866, including, presumably, the Knickerbocker games, to date, no box scores have been found for those matches.

The discovery led to a quick e-mail to Peter Morris, one of those who worked on the Knickerbocker biographies who told me that a player by that name was listed in Marshall Wright's always valuable, The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 as having played three games for the Knickerbockers in 1865.  All too frequently finding just a last name leads nowhere, but happily this was not one of those cases as the Homans family played an important part in the settlement of Englewood in the years just before the Civil War.  Homan's father, Isaac and his eldest son, with the same name, were the publishers of Bankers Magazine and the family moved to Englewood not long after the opening of a railroad connection between Jersey City and the new Bergen County community in May of 1859.  Apparently the relatively convenient railroad - ferry connection between Englewood and lower Manhattan facilitated the move of people from Manhattan and Brooklyn to this new suburb, bringing among other things some young men interested in and knowledgeable about base ball.

Three trains per day between New York City and Englewood - Book of Englewood

The two elder Homans were apparently too busy with their magazine and real estate development in Englewood to get involved in base ball so that fell to Edward 17 in 1860, working as a clerk, most likely on Wall Street and, as noted, a founding director of Englewood's base ball team.  Homans' base ball career had a hiatus after 1860 when he spent the war years as a member of the 22nd New York regiment.  Interestingly a number of the young soldier and ball player's letters to his future wife survive in the collections of the New York Public Library.  While I haven't yet had a chance to look at them, according to the finding aid, had more modern rules been in effect, Homans could have been one of the first players banned for drugs as he apparently experimented with marijuana and hashish.  However much dabbling Homans did in drugs, it apparently didn't have any lasting effect since after the war and his base ball career, he became a stock broker and member of the New York Stock Exchange, living a respectable life until his death n 1894.

One paragraph of the Bergen County Democrats' 12 paragraph diatribe about the umpiring of William Manning - Bergen County Democrat - June 22, 1866

One connection between the fledgling Bergen County club and the historic Knickerbockers is impressive, but apparently Homans wasn't the only Palisade club member who sojourned with the Knickerbockers.  Bergen County, like most of New Jersey, had only weekly newspapers in the 1860's, but for some reason in June of 1866, the Bergen County Democrat devoted significant space to a game between the Palisade Club and the Sparkhill Club of New York.  Not content to write a detailed account of the match, the writer went on to a 12 paragraph diatribe against the umpire, one Manning of the Knickerbocker Club for his poor enforcement of the ball - strike rule.  Another look at Baseball Founders failed to turn up Mr. Manning either with or without a biography, but the October 25, 1865 box score of a Knickerbocker - Eclectic match lists a Manning playing right field for the KBBC, next to Homans who was in center.  And perhaps, not surprisingly at this point, the founding vice president of the Palisade Club in 1860 was one William S. Manning.  Like his Palisade and Knickerbocker teammate, Manning came from a prominent family and went on to a career in the life insurance industry where he made a name for himself with clams of corrupt practices in the industry.

William S. Manning 

None of this, of course, is of any ground breaking significance, but the story of Englewood's development after the coming of the railroad especially with people moving from Manhattan is further evidence of how northern New Jersey's relatively sophisticated railroad network helped spread the game throughout the northern part of the state.  In addition, the identification of these two admittedly very tangible members of the Knickerbockers brings us even closer to a full record of those base ball pioneers.  Finally, the back and forth of these two young men between their local club and the far more well known Knickerbockers is a reminder of the regional nature of the early game in the New York metropolitan area including New Jersey.   As Bruce Allardice noted in the most recent issue of Baseball: A Journal of the Early Game (once again a must read) back in 1855 organized amateur base ball was played in only three states, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.